This book begins on the morning of Leonard Peacock’s 18th birthday, which even his own mother doesn’t remember. In fact, his mother doesn’t even live with him most of the time, since he is attending high school in South Jersey and she is off in New York City working on her fashion design career.
Leonard is planning a murder/suicide. In letters he writes to himself from the future (at the urging of his only caring teacher), we learn how he is feeling:
“I know that you really just want everything to end – that you can’t see anything good in your future, that the world looks dark and terrible, and maybe you’re right – the world can definitely be a dreadful place.”
He tells us that once he went to the park and watched the pigeons and “I felt so so lonely that I hoped someone would come along and stick a knife into my ribs just so they could have my empty wallet.”
Yes, if you are thinking this is a depressing book, you would be correct!
Leonard reveals his feelings and plans in first person narrative interspersed with the aforementioned letters and also a series of footnotes he adds, in a reflection of both his sense of humor and his love of learning and truth, in spite of his cruddy life. At one point, after saying “I’m beginning to see why people go mad and do awful things – like the Nazis and Hitler and Ted Kaczynski and Timothy McVeigh and Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold and Cho Seung-Hui…” he adds this important footnote:
“You should read about all those killers. They all have a lot in common. I bet they felt lonely in many ways, helpless, FORGOTTEN, ignored, alienated, irrelevant, cynical, and sad. Read about them. You really should. You can learn a lot. More than I can explain here.”
Leonard, however, perhaps unlike those others, doesn’t really want to use his gun; he wants to be saved. But he doesn’t want to have to beg for it. He just wants people to listen to him, to notice him, and to be kind. Fortunately, he experiences little bits of that, but is it enough, and is it too late?
Evaluation: This is a good story and an important one, especially if you have teens in your life. Matthew Quick is so adept at tackling difficult subjects, like mental health, anger, hurt, and psychological damage. But he also adds enough humor and an obvious love for his characters to allow you to undertake difficult narrative journeys you might otherwise be apt to avoid.
Published by Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc., 2013